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Last night, I photographed a private reception for Mario Testino’s two exhibits, currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The “private” reception consisted of  hundreds, if not thousands, of models, celebrities, art patrons, fashionistas, corporate sponsors and members of the press. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue  was there too. She’s in a category by herself. I didn’t have the heart to tell her my ipod application for Vogue keeps crashing.

Testino’s subjects are usually famous, and Testino has become famous for photographing them. Whichever came first is not important. Mario Testino is a incredible creative force in fashion and portrait photography.

Testino’s work is so successful because he can connects with people. I found him to be energetic, charming, generous, focused, and never without a camera. At his heart, Testino is a portrait photographer.  If Mario Testino is coming through your front door with a camera, you’ve done something interesting, you’re very wealthy, you’re a fashion icon — or all of the above; and this isn’t the first time you’ve been photographed. Testino’s work can be found on the covers of Vogue and Vanity Fair more often than not, because he can produce consistent work at that high level. He’s with the good guys and he’s got the portfolio to show it.

The two exhibits are a study in contrasts: One is of the members of the British royal family, while the other collection is fashion and beauty. They are both commercial bodies of work. That doesn’t mean the work shouldn’t be in a major museum. It is good to see the images taken out of the context of their original intent.

Photography always struggles to define itself. Is it art? Is it document? Is it commerce? What’s wonderful about Testino’s images is he how he crosses those lines. His work is commercial art of the highest level. Most portraits  in museums now were commissioned pieces at one time.

You can produce beautiful work for the sake of beauty alone. Work made in this spirit usually is more open to interpretation, which allows a different kind of meaningful inquiry.

As my future secret ex-girlriend Anna Wintour said : “If you look at any great fashion photograph out of context, it will tell you just as much about what’s going on in the world as a headline in The New York Times.”

Enjoy.